It may be the dead of winter in Central Asia and the Caucasus, but it seems like the leaders of such countries as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have the “Arab Spring” still very much on their minds.
These states continue to implement measures designed to restrict freedom of speech and association, as well as curtail religious liberty. One visible trigger for these crackdowns is a general desire on the part of regional authorities to prevent expressions of dissent from turning into political action.
Governments are paying a lot of attention to mass communications and social networks, the engines of protest in the Middle East and North Africa. Uzbek authorities, for example, have taken steps to tighten control over cellular companies, instructing providers to report on any suspicious actions by customers, and on any massive distributions of text messages via their cellular networks. Azarbaijan has just taken similar action to keep close tabs on cell and text traffic.
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Stephen Blank is a professor at the US Army War College. The views expressed in this article do not in any way represent the views of the US Army, Defense Department or the US Government.